Monday, June 17, 2019

Child Abusers and All-or-Nothing Thinking

“No person is completely wicked, just as no person is perfect. We are all grey”

― Sweety Shinde

You’re either successful or you’re worthless. You’re smart or you’re stupid. You’re a writer or you’re an artist. Your life is wonderful or it’s terrible. Something is right or it’s wrong. These are examples of all-or-nothing type thinking (also called black-and-white thinking).

For example, a person suffering from all-or-nothing type thinking might struggle with a single question during a long job interview. Despite the interview only being 5% bad (only struggling on a single question), they will say the interview was a bad interview.

This is a negative thinking pattern that's common in people with panic disorder, depression, or other anxiety-related issues. It is also not all that uncommon amongst people without the previous mentioned issues.

Recently, I am noticing a new trend with all-or-nothing type thinking. In the past, all-or-nothing type thinking was used more by people judging themselves (e.g. I am a success/I am a failure). Now it is being used more as a way of people viewing both other individuals, and the world at large.

For example, Jessica knows that she disagrees with her Governor on the topics of traffic cameras, the death penalty and increasing minimum wage. Jessica now hears her Governor’s thoughts on fracking. Despite the fact that Jessica knows zero about fracking, she instinctively disagrees with him. In Jessica’s mind, the Governor is always wrong.

Jessica has “all-or-nothing”ed the Governor.

Example #2: Cooper is against any type of gun control. Cooper has recently discovered a radio show where the host shares Cooper’s beliefs against any government action infringing on the rights of gun owners. Cooper likes this radio host and starts believing every single thing the host opinionates, solely due to the fact that they share an identical belief when it comes to gun control.

Things don’t need to be black or white, most things are shades of gray.

One can agree with a Liberal on one issue and a Conservative on another issue.

Agreeing on one single issue doesn’t mean that one subscribes to all of their beliefs.

Groomers (those abusers who use a technique known as “grooming” as a way to get their victims) know about this “all-or-nothing” type thinking, and they exploit it for their advantage.

The first thing that groomers do is they try to give off the impression that they are righteous and upstanding individuals. They will volunteer their time and their money to assist those in need.

They do this so that community members will be like Cooper in the second example. Just as Cooper took this one shared belief and expanded it across the board, likewise communities often view groomers as “righteous and upstanding” due to their volunteerism, and expand it across the board (i.e. he can’t be an abuser, look how much of an upstanding individual he is!).

The second thing that groomers do is they attempt to select victims who will not get them, the abuser, into trouble. One way of doing this is by selecting a victim who lacks believability within the community. Just like Jessica in the first example immediately dismissed what the Governor had to say about fracking, the community will immediately dismiss what this victim has to say about their abuse and their abuser.

Couple the two examples together and you have yourself someone who has mastered the art of grooming.

There is another flaw within all-or-nothing thinking when it comes to abusers. People mistakenly believe that an abuser not abusing a specific child or children is proof that he hasn’t abused any other child. The fact that ten out of the eleven boys in the karate class insist that their teacher never abused them does not mean that the eleventh boy is automatically lying.

If we want to start believing victims and stop protecting abusers, one of the things we must do, on both an individual level as well as a communal one, is to stop this poisonous all-or-nothing type thinking.

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.

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